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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sup banh canh cua (Crab meat soup with Prawn dumplings)

Clearly, noodles and soups are very popular among Vietnamese people. Growing up in Vietnam, we where very blessed to have various hawker stall vendors just outside our doorsteps. With each vendor specialising in a particular dish and recipes that has being handed down from one generation to the next. As you walk by each vendor, the aroma would entice your senses and induce you to stop by. And perhaps hand over some money for sample of their offering. Without a doubt, banh canh cua is definitely one of my weakness and will have me reaching into my pocket every time I walk by. Banh canh cua is an aromatic crab meat noodle soup, which has been thicken slightly with tapioca starch and it's among one of my favourite noodle soups. I learnt this recipe for Sandra's mum, whom is without a doubt in my opinion, one of the most knowledgeable people in Vietnamese cuisine. I have played around and made a few minor adjustments to the original recipe. As I have said before, I believe recipe should only be used as a guideline. Hope you give a try and perhaps put your own spin on it. This soup is packed with flavour and has a luxuriously silken texture. It's brilliant as a main or can easily be made into a starter or entree size soup. Serve it which ever way you like, it's delicious that I promise you.


3 ltrs of chicken stock
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp annatto seeds
2 cup crab meat, or can crab lump meat.
2 egg
1 bag of fresh banh canh (tapioca udon noodles)

Prawn dumplings

1/2 kg prawns, shell remove and deviened
6 shallot, white stem
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper, grounded


bean sprouts
crispy fried eshallots
white pepper
lemon wedges


To make the prawn dumplings

1. Remove shell, head and devein the prawns. Frozen prawns are also great because the work is already done for you.
2. With the flat side of a clever, smash the prawns a couple at a time and set aside.
3. Chop and add the shallot to a mortar with the salt and white pepper. Pound to a rough paste and add in the prawns. Pound for a couple of minutes to until it becomes a uniform prawn paste.
4. Put into a container and refrigerate until needed.

To make the soup

1. Put the annatto seeds in a large bowl and add a cup of boiling water. Set aside for an hour to let the colour infuse into the water.
2. Bring the chicken stock to a boil.
3. With a tablespoon, scoop the prawn paste into a ball and drop it into the chicken stock. repeat with as many as needed
4. Strain in the annatto water, add to the stock and stir in the crab meat. Season with sugar and fish sauce, adjust seasoning to taste.

To serve

1. Beat the eggs lightly and set aside.
2. Bring soup to a boil and drop in the udon noodles. Stir a couple of time to separate and prevent the udon noodles from sticking to each other. (cut udon noodles into 1 inch long if serving as an entree or starter). The starch coating the udon noodles will thicken the soup slightly.
3. While stirring, drizzling slowly in a thin stream the beaten eggs into the soup to create what is called an egg flower.
4. To serve, add a little bean sprouts to a bowl and top up with the soup.
5. Enjoy with freshly cracked pepper and a touch lemon juice. To finish, sprinkle on some crispy fried eshallots, chopped coriander and spring onions.

Note: I like to use fresh banh canh udon noodle, it has a coating of tapioca flour on it (unlike Vietnamese banh canh udon noodles). It not only thickens the soup but to me has a softer and more silken texture.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chao ca nam bao ngo (Congee with fish and abalone mushroom )

Often when the weather is cold and miserable, there is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of congee. Congee is a delicious rice porridge that is often enjoyed with Yar char kway (Chinese fried cruller). It is also often eaten when one is sick or unwell to nourish back to health. I used to remember without fail, mum would make a big bowl of plain congee often with salted duck eggs when I was sick. Congee is made with the most basic of ingredients, mainly rice and water. The secret to a great congee is to pre-soaking the rice and a long rolling boil until the rice breaks down and disintegrate. Resulting in a deliciously creamy and silky texture. On it's own congee is quiet plain but however, it's a great carrier of flavours. You can pretty much add any flavours you like, chicken, pork, fish or seafood, the combinations are endless. I just love congee to bits, no matter if it's breakfast, lunch or dinner. I used to have to make the journey to superbowl, a very popular destination for congee in Sydney. Not any more, this is a simple and delicious recipe anyone can replicate and enjoy at home.


1 cup of Jasmine rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp salt
1 can chicken stock, optional

1/2 kg fish fillets, sliced into 1/2cm thick.
1 can of abalone mushroom, sliced into 1/2cm thick.
1 knob of ginger, julienned


Yau char kway (Chinese fried cruller)
shallots, finely chopped
coriander, finely chopped
roasted peanuts
crispy eshallots
white pepper


1. Wash, rinse and drain the rice a couple of times. Add salt, olive oil plus a cup of water to the rice and set aside for 1/2 an hour.
2. Bring 4 litres of water to the boil and add the soaked rice. Stir occasionally to stop rice from sticking to the bottom.
3. Let it boil for about an hour, until the rice grains starts to breaks down and disintegrate. Top up with more water or chicken stock if congee becomes too thick.
4. Before serving add in the fish, abalone mushroom and ginger. The fish shouldn't take long to cook at all.
5. To serve, top up a large bowl with the congee and enjoy with the accompaniments.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tom sot ca chua (King prawns with tomato sauce)

I often like to try out new ways and techniques on classic recipes. The results haven't always turned out the way I hoped or imagined, while other times, I get pleasantly surprised. Sot ca chua is a classic Vietnamese tomato base sauce for many popular Vietnamese dishes. Ca chien sot ca chau (pan-fried fish with tomato sauce) and dau hu sot ca chua (pan-fried tofu with tomato sauce) are couple of my favourites. In Asian cuisine, most of the time if not all the time, sauces are thicken with cornstarch or tapioca starch. Inspired by an episode on Masterchef, I came up with an idea to use flour to not only thicken the sauce but give it richness and body. I know many of you reading this post right now are probably saying 'that's not how you make sot ca chau'. It's certainly not the way my mother would make it either. But to me cooking is not always about following recipes. Cooking should also be an outlet for your creativity and recipes should be used merely as a guideline. So if you like to try something a little different, give this a try. Although this isn't an authentic way of making sot ca chua, it's definitely tasty.


500g king prawns, shelled and deveined
1 large tomato, finely diced
2 tbsp shallot white stem only, chopped finely
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 tbsp of garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cup water
1 tsp tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp olive oil


coriander, finely chopped
shallots, finely chopped
French style baguettes


1. In a large non stick pan on medium heat, add a tbsp of olive oil and saute the onions, shallot and garlic until fragrant.
2. Stir in the flour and cook it for 30 seconds before adding the tomato paste. Quickly stir in tomato paste, then gradually add in the water and stir.
3. Then add in the dice tomatoes, chilli powder and season with sugar and fish sauce.
4. Let the sauce reduce and thickens a little before add in the prawns. Taste and test for seasoning.
5. When prawns a cooked, take off heat and serve.
6. Garnish with coriander and shallots, enjoy with hot crusty Baguettes.

This is my entry to Delicious Vietnam #16, a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese cuisine which was started by Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey and Hong & Kim of Ravenous Couple. Thanks to Door to my kitcken for hosting this month.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sui gao (Prawn wonton dumplings)

When I was little, I used to remember my uncle taking me to yum cha on a weekly basis. Like everyone else and almost without fail, we would order what I call the holy trinity of dim sum. Har gao (steam prawn dumplings), siu mai (steam pork and prawn dumplings) and phung chao (chicken feet). It was a ritual I look forward to every weekend. If ever you're a fan of dim sum, you'll love these dumplings. You can steam or deep fry these and enjoy them with chilli sauce. Otherwise, poach them and serve as wonton soup. Whichever way you choose to serve them, they are simply delicious.


500gr prawns, shelled and deveined
2 shallots (white part only), roughly chopped
1/2 tbsp Ginger, grated
1/2 tsp white pepper, grounded
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cornflour
1 egg white

1 bag of wonton egg pastry.


1. Roughly cut the prawns into quarters and set aside.
2. Add 200g of prawns into a food processor along with all the other ingredients and mince to form a paste.
3. Mix in the prawn paste with the rest of the other prawns and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. To assemble the wontons, place about a teaspoon of the prawn mix onto a wonton pastry, fold the two ends together to form a triangular shape. Squeeze out any air pockets and press hard to seal the pastry together. Repeat the process with the others.
5. Bring water to the boil in a large stock pot and add about a dozen in at a time. The dumplings should be cooked when they rise to the surface, it should only take a couple of minutes. Remove with a strainer and repeat with the others.
6. Enjoy with some hot chilli sauce.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kem cafe (coffee ice cream)

Another favourite dessert flavouring of mine is coffee. It is without a doubt, the most loved and consumed beverage in Vietnam. Even my 5year old niece would take a couple of sips from her grandfather's coffee when he's not looking. Perhaps, it would probably explain why she is always full of energy. It is definitly a great dessert to have around, simply enjoy on it's own or with toasted black sesame seeds or roasted peanuts.


3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup of cream
2 tbsp of strong expresso coffee


1. Whisk the cream to stiff peak and set aside in fridge until needed.
2. Whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale and forms a ribbon.
3. Fold in the coffee a tbsp at a time with the egg mixture.
4. Followed by folding in the cream, 1/3 at a time.
5. Put in a container and in the freezer overnight.
6. Enjoy with toasted black sesame or crush roasted peanuts.

Stir-fry pippies with garlic and chilli

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of shellfish and pippies has to one of my favourites. Due to their high demand in recent times, I have seen the price jumped to over $20 per/kg. As Steven Irwin would say 'Crikey', but they are still worth it. There are so many ways you can cook pippies, you can steam it and dip it in nuoc cham. Stir fry with Xo sauce or my favourite is stir fry with chilli and garlic. So, if you're a big fan of pippies and like it spicy like I do, give this a try. It's delicious, that I promise you.


500g pippies
2 clove garlic
2 chilli
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp shrimp paste, optional
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp oil

1 shallots, cut into 1 inch long
1/4 onion, thinly slice
1/2 cup Vietnamese mints


1. Add a cup of hot water to a pot on high heat and steam pippies open. Drain and set aside.
2. Add garlic, chilli, sugar and shrimp paste into a mortar. Pound the ingredients together and set aside.
3. Add the oil to a non-stick pan on high heat, followed by the chilli and garlic paste.
4. Stir it around, be careful not to burn the garlic and chilli.
5. When it starts to caramelise add in the fish sauce and reduce the sauce until it starts thickens.
6. Add the shallots and onions and toss a couple of time.
7. Add the pippies and toss to coat the pippies evenly with the sauce. Then turn off the heat and mix in the Vietnamese mints.
8. Serve and enjoy with a ice cold beer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bo luc lac (Wok tossed black pepper beef)

The literal translation of 'Bo luc lac' is shaking beef, referring to the shaking and tossing action when cooking this dish. Without a doubt, it's one of my favourite beef dishes. I like to use lots of freshly crack pepper, I love the burst of pepper flavour when biting into it. Most of the time when I eat out, it's serve with red rice. But when making it at home, I like to serve it with a watercress salad and pickle onions


250g sirloin beef, cut into large chunks
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp White pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 onion, cut into large chunks
1 tbsp oil

Bo luc lac sauce

1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp thick sweet soya sauce
1/2 tbsp freshly crack black pepper
1/4 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tbsp butter


1. Prepare the Bo luc lac sauce by mixing the ingredients together and set aside until needed.
2• Cube the beef and season with salt and pepper.
3• Heat up a wok or non stick pan on high with 1/2 tbsp oil and sear beef for 2 minutes. Push beef to one corner of the wok.
4• Add 1/2 tbsp oil and toss in onion and garlic, followed by the Bo luc lac sauce.
5• Toss all together until sauce reduce and thickens a little. About 30 sec
6• Add in the butter and toss a couple of times and remove from heat.
7. Enjoy with a watercress salad or rice.

Watercress salad and pickled onions

1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tbsp white vinegar


1. Dissolve sugar in vinegar, and toss in the sliced onions. Set aside for 5 mins or until needed.
2. Plate up the watercress, use the pickling juice as the dressing and position the pickled onions on top.

Kem la dua (Pandan ice cream)

In Asian pandan to us, is the like vanilla to the western world. Without contest, it is the most widely used and loved flavouring in desserts. What better way to celebrate this divine ingredient then in an ice cream. This is a quick and easy ice cream recipe that everyone can make at home without an ice cream machine.


3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup of cream
1 tsp pandan paste


1. Whisk the cream to stiff peak and set aside in fridge until needed.
2. Whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale and forms a ribbon.
3. Fold in the pandan paste with the egg mixture.
4. Followed by folding in the cream, 1/3 at a time.
5. Put in a container and in the freezer overnight.
6. Enjoy with crush roasted peanuts.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Goi Oc (Vietnamese sea snail salads)

Let's face it, snails are not every one's cup of tea but I get very excited whenever I can get my hands on them. To me, it represents the flavour of the sea. On my travels to Vietnam, I recall eating it every single day. I had it every way imaginable, in salads, grilled, steamed and in stir-fries. You name it, I had it. There is an enormous variety of edible snails and molluscs found in Vietnam. And it's all delicious, let me assure you.


1 cup sea snail, cooked and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 large chilli, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass white part only, thinly sliced
1 cup mix herbs (Vietnamese mint, coriander, mint), roughly chopped
1/2 tsp dried ground chilli
1/2 cup Nuoc cham
1/2 tbsp lemon juice


1. Add the all the ingredients except for the mix herbs and toss together well.
2. Add in the herbs mix and toss lightly.
3. Enjoy with a Vietnamese rice cracker and glass of white wine.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Do chua (pickled vegetables)

Do chua to Vietnamese is like Kim chi to the Koreans. Without a doubt, it is our pickle of choice. Every Vietnamese family should have one of these jar in the fridge, along with our other national treasure Nuoc cham. It's great just on it's own or toss into a salad, and I can't image having Banh mi thi (Vietnamese pork roll) without do chua. It's dead easy and simple make but taste absolutely amazing.


2 carrots
1 small daikon
1/2 head of cauliflower (optional)
5 large chilli (optional)

2 cup sugar
2.5 cup white vinegar
1 tsp salt


1. Add sugar, salt and vinegar into a saucepan on medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolve and set aside to cool.
2. Cut carrots and daikon into small strips, and put in a large bowl.
3. Cut cauliflower into small pieces and add to the carrots and daikon with the chilli.
4. Pour the cooled sugar and vinegar solution into the bowl. Let the vegetables pickle for a couple of hours.
5. Then put the pickles in a clean jar or container and close lid and refrigerate for couple days.
6. Enjoy with ham and hot crusty baguette or just on it's own.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bun nuoc leo (Fermented fish soup with vemicelli rice noodle)

Bun nuoc leo or 'Bun mam' as I call it, is a recipe request made by Lyn, a very supportive follower and dear friend. Althought, I have devoured many Bun mam during my life time and seen my mum, aunties and others make it. I have never actually attempted at making it myself. Bun mam is an acquired taste, it's made from fermented fish called 'Man ca sac' which is infuse into the broth. Be warned when making this, 'man ca sac' has a very strong aroma or smell, which ever way you want to call it. I would suggest you make this soup outdoors and preferably the night before when the neighbours are asleep and their doors and windows are shut. Like many Vietnamese, we grow up eating this and welcome it, when ever and where ever we can get it. I love the aroma and flavour of this fish broth, it's a soup like no other. And to test it out, I had some friends over for dinner and to my surprise and joy wanted seconds. And you know it's pretty good when people come back for a second helping.


Fish broth

1 jar mam ca sac (Vietnamese fermented gourami fish sauce)
3 lemongrass stalks, cut into 5cm long and bruised
1 large chunk of galangal, cut into 1/2 cm slice
10 kaffar lime leaves
4 lt chicken stock
1 cup of sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp man ruoc (optional)

2 tbsp veg oil
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup lemongrass, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced

1 kg egg plant
1/2 kg ling fish, cut into 1 cm thick slices
1/2 kg prawns, peeled and deveined
1/2 lkg roast pork, cut into 1 cm thick slices
1 bag Vietnamese rice vermicelli noodles


Vietnamese herbs
Bean sprouts
Flat-leaf chives, cut into 2-inch sections
water spinach
Ground chilli
Lemon wedges


1. Empty one jar of mam ca sac into a small saucepan with 1 litre of water and bring to the boil. Then lower heat to a simmer and let it simmer for 30 mins.
2. Pour the chicken stock into a large stock pot and strain the man ca sac stock into it as well.
3. Add the lemongrass, galangal and kaffar lime leave and simmer for an hour. Strain any impurities than rises to the surface.
4. Season with sugar, fish sauce and mam ruoc.
5. Add the oil to a frying pan on medium heat, saute the lemongrass and garlic with the turmeric powder until fragrant. Then add it to the fish stock.
6. Cut the eggplant into large chunks and add to fish broth 30 mins prior to serving.
7. Bring fish broth to the boil, using a noodle strainer cook the fish in the broth and set aside. Followed by the prawns and set aside.
8. Taste and test for seasoning, add little more sugar or fish sauce to your liking.
8.Cook the vermicelli noodles according to the manufacturer's instructions.

To serve

1. Add couple of prawns, fish and roast pork into a noodle strainer, followed by the vermicelli noodles.
2. Bring the fish broth to boil and lower the meats and noodles into the fish broth for 30 seconds or just enough to reheat the noodles.
3. Strain and put into a large soup bowl, top up with the fish broth and some eggplants.
4. Enjoy with a squeeze of lemon and accompaniments.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ca kho to (Caramelised silver perch in claypot)

This is a very home style dish and one that mum used to make alot. I recall having thi kho(caramelised pork) and ca kho(caramelised fish) often as a child, almost on a weekly basis. Perhaps, it's the fact that you can feed the whole family with just one dish. I love the balance of saltiness and sweetness of the sauce, nothing goes better with hot steaming rice than this. Without fail, I always start by slathering a spoonful of the thick caramelised sauce and message it into my rice. I can eat it just like that, to me the sauce is the hero of the dish.


1 silver perch
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
3 shallots white part only (cut 1 inch long and bruised)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp white pepper (roughly cracked)
1 thai chilli (thinly sliced, optional)

Caramel sauce

2 tbsp cooking oil
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce

chopped shallots


1. Cut the fish into 1 inch pieces and place in a large bowl with the fish sauce, sugar, shallots, garlic, chilli and white pepper. Mix and let marinate for about 30 minutes.
2. Heat the oil over low-medium heat in a medium-sized clay pot or non stick pan. Add the sugar and wait until it start to caramelise.
3. When the sugar is caramelised, add 2 tbsp fish sauce to stop it cooking further.
4. Let the sauce thicken a little, then add the fish in. Coat both side of the fish with the caramel sauce.
5. Stir in the remaining marinade and cover with the lid slightly open. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to a fairly thick syrup. Turn the fish occasionally to coat both sides with the caramel sauce.
6. Adjust seasoning to taste with fish sauce and sugar.
7. Garnish with shallots and enjoy with steamed rice.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ga xao xa ot (stir fry chicken with lemongrass and chilli)

Without a doubt, Ga xao xa ot is one my favourites. The combination of lemongrass, garlic and chilli is just amazing. The alluring aroma that waffles through the house when cooking this dish is irresistible. Not only does it taste amazing, but also quick and simple to prepare.


1 cup chicken thigh fillet
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp pepper

2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
1 tbsp Lemongrass (finely minced)
1/2 Onion (roughly sliced)
1 large chilli (sliced)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
1 tbsp Sugar
1/2 tbsp fish sauce


1. Cut chicken thigh fillet into bit size pieces and season with fish sauce and pepper. Set aside
2. Have all the other ingredients prepared and ready to go.
3. Have a non stick pan on medium-high heat and wait until it's hot. Add a tbsp of oil to pan and sear the chicken on both sides.
4. Add the lemongrass, garlic and saute until fragrant. Then the chilli powder, turmeric powder and toss quickly all together.
5. Followed by the onion, chilli, and quickly toss all ingredients together.
6. Then add the sugar and fish sauce, toss quickly to coat the chicken evenly. Reduce the sauce until it becomes a sticky glaze, remove from heat.
7. Enjoy with some Vietnamese herbs, lettuce and steaming hot rice


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